Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
Now I Know

Like this stuff? Get it delivered to your email inbox daily!
Archives | Subscribe | Share:

  The Sun -- a star -- will, like all other stars, burn out.  But don't worry.  It's got five billion or so years left.  (And two billion more years after that before it becomes a diamond.) -- Dan
Lucy In The Sky Is Diamonds
What happens when a star dies?

Fifty light years -- that's about 300,000,000,000,000 (300 quadrillion) miles -- away from Earth is Lucy, a former star whose proverbial bulb has burned out.   And Lucy's core has turned into a diamond.  In this case, the diamond is huge -- the largest in the galaxy.  At 10 billion trillion trillion carats -- 1 followed by 34 zeroes! -- it's, well, huge beyond imagination.  The largest terrestrial diamond, the Golden Jubilee Diamond, is about 500 carats -- a 5, followed by two lonely zeroes.

How'd this happen?

When a star consumes all of its fuel, it burns out, leaving behind a white dwarf -- a hot, crystalizing core.  For years, scientists have believed that the core, made mostly of carbon, turns into a diamond, but we have had no evidence supporting that thesis.  That all changed in 2004, when astronomers were able to use gong-like pulsations eminating from Lucy to determine that its core was a really big diamond and developed the model pictured above.  (Scientists use a similar method terrestrially, measuring the Earth's seizmic activity to answer questions about the makeup of the Earth's core.)

And why "Lucy"?  The white dwarf's official name is BPM 37038 -- a nomenclature without meaning to lay people.  Lucy received her informal name upon the discovery of her diamond core -- as a tribute to the Beatles.  

Bonus fact:  BPM 37038 isn't the first thing to be named after Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  In 1974, archeologists found a partial fossil of a prehistoric hominid, perhaps an evolutionary ancestor of humans, and named it Lucy -- because the Beatles' song had been played loudly and repetitively at the camp during excavation.

Archives | Subscribe | Share:



Now I Know LLC
6 Miller Cir
Armonk, NY 10504-1361


Copyright (C) 2011 Now I Know LLC All rights reserved.

Now I Know is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Some images via Wikipedia, available for use here under a Creative Commons license, and copyright their respective owners.